Highlight the challenges associated with the implementation of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 and suggest measures to ensure its implementation in both letter and spirit.

The Panchayats (Extension to scheduled areas) Act, 1996 is hallmark of spirit of Democratic decentralisation and the Gandhian democracy in India.

Salient features:

  1. 73rd amendment modified to suit local customs of the people in scheduled areas.
  2. Power of Gram Sabha
  • To undertake, plan ans implement development projects.
  • Gave certificate of utilization of funds to Panchayat.
  • Recommendations mandatory for license of mining minor minerals.
  • Consultation before acquisition of land and rehabilitation.
  • Adequate powers to regulate village market, minor forest produce.

Despite noble objectives, several problems remain:

  • Lack of awareness about the rights.
  • Heavy bureaucratization.
  • Lack of proper infrastructure to realise the objectives. E.g. No regular meeting or consultation with members.
  • Lack of political will among the officials.
  • Forest communities seen as obstacle to development rather than as partner.

Realising the goal of grass root democracy in scheduled areas calls for:

  • Greater allocation of financial and functional powers to Gram Sabha and Panchayat.
  • Awareness campaign to inform of their rights.
  • Set up proper infrastructure to hold regular meeting.
  • Strict penalty against any mining/ land acquisition without proper consultation.

The poor implementation has led to criticism of it being grass root democracy without gram. Efforts to be taken to ensure that Gram not only survives but also thrives and nourishes entire democratic system.

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